The Achuar: Visionary Warriors of the Amazon
Deep in the Amazon rainforest, spanning the borders of modern-day Ecuador and Peru, the Achuar people have lived and thrived for centuries.
Traditionally warriors with a fierce devotion to their land, they kept their sophisticated culture and worldview remarkably intact as late as the mid-20th century.
In Achuar culture, dreams are a guiding principle of life, shared each morning before sunrise. Shamans play an important role in the spiritual life of Achuar communities, including the interpretation of dreams.
But not all dreams are sweet. Dreams can often require facing and transforming that which you most fear.
The Nightmare of Oil Development
Since the early 20th century, individuals and corporations from the so-called “modern” world have sought to exploit Achuar land for its oil, disregarding its irreplaceable ecological and cultural wealth.
By the early 1990s, Achuar shamans and elders were having dreams of an imminent threat to their land and traditional way of life.
From contact with neighboring tribes, the Achuar knew that oil companies were poisoning the rainforest and everything alive in it, steadily moving closer and closer to their home.
The Eagle and the Condor
The Achuar were also influenced by their understanding of an ancient prophecy about the Eagle and the Condor, shared by many Andean and Amazonian indigenous cultures.
According to this prophecy, we are at a moment in history when the Eagle – representing intellect and the mind – and the Condor – representing wisdom and the heart – must come together to ensure the continued existence of humankind.
An Invitation to Allies in the Modern World
Emboldened by this prophecy and their warrior history, the Achuar made the courageous decision to reach out to the modern world that was threatening their very existence.
The Achuar shared with this group the urgent threat to their lands and culture, their vision for self-determination, and a request for allies from the North who would “change the dream of the modern world” – shift our culture of overconsumption to a culture that honors and sustains life.
This group committed to a partnership with the Achuar, and, upon their return to the United States, Bill and Lynne Twist co-founded The Pachamama Alliance to carry out their commitment.
Ecuador: A High-Stakes Microcosm of World Systems
With its wealth of natural resources, including minerals, metals, lumber and oil, Ecuador had been a highly coveted colony since at least the mid-16th century.
By the time The Pachamama Alliance was founded, Ecuador was still not completely in control of its own wealth. Policies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank kept Ecuador caught in a debt cycle fueled by the oil demands of industrialized countries.
In the face of these economic and political pressures, merely halting individual instances of oil development was a never-ending battle. We needed to get to the root of the problem.
Changing the Dream of the Modern World
The realities of oil development underscored the importance of “changing the dream of the modern world” if we wanted to fulfill our commitment to the Achuar.
We began to bring other people from the modern world to the rainforest. Pachamama Journeys began in 1996, offering a direct experience of Achuar wisdom and the Pachamama vision.
These journeys also supported eco-tourism projects in Achuar territory, creating economic alternatives beyond selling land to oil companies.
Early Success with Our Indigenous Partners
Since 1997 we have worked in solidarity with indigenous organizations of Ecuador’s Amazon to defend their rights and homeland.
Our initial efforts provided legal and technical expertise to strengthen indigenous self-governance and preserve their lands and cultures, including mapping, land titling, and sustainable economic development.
Educating, Inspiring, and Guiding People Into Action
While Pachamama Journeys and our work in Ecuador were a profound success, we continued to inquire for many years into how to make a widespread impact to “change the dream.”
In 2005, we launched our suite of transformative learning workshops with the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium.
Tens, hundreds, even thousands of people gather at these Symposiums around the world to discover the value of ancient wisdom in addressing our modern crises, and their personal role in bringing forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on this planet.
Symposiums have been held in at least 78 countries in 13 languages, with more than 4,000 volunteers offering the content in homes, churches, businesses, community centers, and government agencies. In late 2011, we expanded the reach of the Symposium through a partnership with Gaiam to offer DVD and online versions.
In late 2013, we launched the next era of our educational work, with the Up to Us Initiative, a transformative educational pathway for people to develop themselves as leaders of social action in the world. Up to Us unleashes our power as global citizens by inspiring and educating us to collectively strike at the root of the challenges that stand in the way of a just, sustainable, fulfilling future for all.
A New Expression of Warriorship
The Achuar are committed to maintaining their expert stewardship of the rainforest, taking a stand to preserve this invaluable resource on behalf of all life. They refuse to let humanity destroy itself.
We have supported the Achuar in gaining full title to nearly 1.8 million acres of rainforest. Based on this success, we expanded to work with other indigenous groups in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Bolivia.
As their allies, we continue to innovate education and advocacy initiatives in Ecuador and around the world.